A stomach-turning photo of Tomislav Salopek, 30, was circulated Wednesday via social media, showing the gruesome aftermath of the execution.
“They want to swap me for Muslim women arrested in Egyptian prisons”.
Buried in the sand next to his bloodied corpse is the chilling black and white flag used by ISIS.
The photo, which Reuters has not yet verified as authentic, was captioned “Killing of the Croatian hostage, due to his country’s participation in the war against Islamic State, after the deadline expired”.
Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic told reporters he could not “confirm with 100 percent certainty” that Tomislav Salopek, who worked for French company CGG, had been murdered. “I am afraid that the worst has happened”. He said the company can not determine whether Salopek was killed based only on the image posted Wednesday online.
He also stressed that Croatia would not take part in combat operations against IS.
Croatia has not contributed forces to operations against the Islamic State, but the State Department has said Croatia provided unspecified military supplies.
The officials “will not stop searching, digging as long as there is a drop of hope” to find Salopek, he said.
An ISIS attack on Egyptian forces in July left 21 dead and hundreds injured.
In the execution video, the kneeling man believed to be Salopek identifies himself as he reads from a paper while a masked man in camouflage stands behind him with a knife.
Several attacks by Sinai province claimed the lives of civilians, policemen and soldiers in the past few months.
The Sinai Province, initially named Ansar Bayt Maqdis, swore allegiance to ISIL and changed its name in November 2014.
Militants belonging or linked to IS have carried out or claimed a series of killings of Western and other hostages over the past year or so. In Syria, Islamic State militants have killed foreign journalists and aid workers, starting with American journalist James Foley in August a year ago.
The 30-year-old oil and gas sector surveyor is the first foreign captive to be killed in this way in Egypt since the extremists set up a branch in the country.
Mr Barnini refused to comment in detail on the circumstances of Mr Salopek’s abduction but said the company had since increased its security measures.
“This is already an insular moment for Egypt and it’s quite possible that the country could be seen as not only an inhospitable environment for foreigners, but a risky one-and that is [Sinai Province’s] intention”, said Michael Hanna, an Egypt analyst with the Century Foundation in New York.
He also says Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s government tried to “legitimize itself with a supposed tough stance against home-grown militants” but that his security policy “has been a catastrophic failure”.